• Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.1: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation 

    Part 1.1: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 1- 5), (Joshua 6:1-2 

    The fall of the city of Jericho in Joshua 6 (NRSV)  is one of my favorite biblical accounts, as it provides a wonderful testimony about what God can do when we act in obedience and faith. It also gives a clear insight into the difference between how we perceive our circumstances, in comparison to how God sees them.  

    We start this epic biblical account in the land of Canaan. Under the anointed leadership of Joshua, God has brought His people, the Israelites, out of their 40-year wilderness period in the desert of Sinai, by crossing over the Jordan River into Canaan (Joshua 3). Safe on the other side, the Israelites have set up camp in Gilgal, which borders to the east of the fortified city of Jericho.  

    The land of Canaan is significant to the Israelites, as it is the Promised Land, the heritage of the Israelites, that God had promised to Abraham when He made a covenant with Him (Genesis 15:18-21).  

    The only things is, the Promised Land is still occupied by the Canaanites, who are their enemies. In order to stake their claim as the new owners of the land, the Israelites need to defeat the Canaanites by taking the city of Jericho and claiming the fortress city for themselves. 

    The momentous task is the final and decisive step for the Israelites on a long journey to receiving the promise of God’s inheritance.  

    The Israelites had been enslaved in the bronze fetters of Pharaoh for 430 years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41). After their exodus from Egypt, they were then nomads for 40 years in the wilderness, which severely tested their faith (Numbers 32:13). Their steadfast leader Moses died and didn’t get to see the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1-8), and all males who had been born in the desert had to be circumcised, even the adults (ouch). 

    One the other hand, the Israelites had also experienced signs, miracles and wonders of God’s provision: God parted the Red Sea for them so they could escape Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 14), and He provided them with manna and quail in the desert when they were hungry (Exodus 16). Through Moses, He gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s holy presence amongst His people.  

    Finally, God promoted Joshua, Moses’ second-in-command and one of the original 12 spies who scouted Canaan (Numbers 13:1-16), as the new leader of the Israelites. It was Joshua’s faith and obedience towards God that played a monumental role in the Israelite’s triumphant campaign in conquering Canaan, which lasted a total of 7 years.  

    Now, the Israelites are about to bear witness to another of God’s miracles – He is going to give them the city of Jericho – a fortress city which is reputed as being impregnable (Joshua 6:2-5) and is manned by a race of people well accustomed to warfare.  

    However, despite God’s promise of victory to make the walls of Jericho fall down, the Israelites still need to prepare themselves spiritually by obeying God’s laws. Moreover, they need to exercise their faith by holding on tightly to the promises that God has made them. 

    As an exception to our conventional layout of the Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies, this month, we are going to break down Part One further into three sub-segments, with each part analyzing a section of Joshua 6.  Many of us are going through adversity right now and it is on our hearts to explore in depth how God is in fact with us, making walls fall down and providing the path to breakthrough, when all the while we hear is His silence.  

    We hope that this deeper analysis of Joshua 6 will give you comfort and encourage you that God hears your pleading and prayers, and has already made a way when you don’t see a way.  

    We will post the two remaining sub-segments on Thursday and next Monday respectively. In the following weeks we will also be looking at Part 2 – “Living God’s Word”  and Part 3 – “Studying God’s Word” to complete our Bible study series on Joshua 6.

    Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

    The importance of Jericho for the Israelites

    So, before we look at how the Israelites overcame Jericho, we need to know why, out of all the cities in Canaan, did the Israelites choose this particular city as their first launch of attack in their campaign on the Promised Land? 

    Conquering Jericho was important to the Israelites for two reasons: 

    1. Jericho was part one of a three-part military campaign on Canaan

    The northern and southern parts of Canaan were separated by a ridge of mountains running east to west. Jericho was situated at the gateway to this mountain ascent. In order to prevent a hostile approach into the hill country from the east, the city had been built as a military fortress with 12-17 ft walls, which were wide enough to cater chariots as an added defense feature. Inside the walls was a stone tower about 28 ft high. 

    The first part of the Israelite’s military strategy was to capture Jericho and thereby gain control of the central mountain ridge. This would effectively divide a wedge between the northern and southern parts of Canaan, thus dividing their enemy’s army in two. It would also ensure that the Israelite’s didn’t have any enemy forces right at their back once they entered the high country.  

    Map Courtesey of: Free Bible Land Maps – New Testament Christians.Com, “Conquests of Joshua.”

    Following their conquest of the center of the land, the Israelites planned on executing the second part of their campaign, which was to attack the Canaanite armies to the south. Their third and final military goal was to overcome the more remote armies to the north.  

    2. God uses the fall of Jericho to show His power and that He keeps His promises

    Ancient warfare tactics required weeks or even months to capture a city, however God delivers Jericho into the Israelite’s hands in just 7 days based on: 

    •  His power  
    • His promise to His people to give them every place where they set foot and to always be with them (Joshua 1:1-5
    • The Israelite’s faith in God and their obedience in following His instructions 

    This is especially significant when you consider that the Israelites had previously failed to enter Canaan and confront their enemies due to a negative reconnaissance report from Moses’ spies (Numbers 13:25-29). They feared the Canaanites, believing them to be physically superior to them and their cities to be well fortified (Numbers 13:28). The inhabitants of Jericho were also seasoned warriors, armed to the teeth with military resources, whereas the Israelites were a nation of ex-slaves with no military experience. 

    This was indeed all true, but God uses these odds to show that the walls of Jericho can only fall down through His power and not by man’s prowess or strategizing. This should be an unusual achievement, a unique triumph that highlights the majesty, goodness, and might of God. 

    The victory of Jericho should not only be to encourage the Israelites that they can face anything that opposes them in Canaan, but it is to also send a message to the other nations of the glory and power of God. 

    God also wanted to show the Israelites the fulfilment of His promise that they would inherit Canaan, the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Leviticus 20:24). And God always keeps His promises.  

    Photo credit:  Valdemaras D. on Unsplash

    Why the battle was won before it even began

    When God leads you to experience a breakthrough or enter into a new level of spiritual promotion, He will line everything up in your favor. In the case of the Israelites, we see in three ways, how God had been laying the groundwork for their victory at Jericho long before they arrived at the fortified walls.  

    1. God has already given us the victory 

    The Israelites are preparing themselves for what could be the most impactful battle of their lives. Looking up at the walls and seeing their enemy leering down at them from the high parapets, l guess we can safely assume that they are feeling just a little bit nervous about the outcome of their undertaking, despite their faith in God. It’s only natural right?  

    However, God is totally relaxed, because He considers the battle to be already won. He says the following to Joshua: 

    ‘“See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers.”’ 

    Joshua 6:2 

    Did you notice how God said, “I have handed Jericho over to you?” (emphasis mine). God is reassuring the leader of the Israelites that He has delivered Jericho in their hands, before they have even left their camp in Gilgal! 

    Hebrew scholars refer to this term as the prophetic perfectIt is a literary technique, which is most distinguishable in Hebrew and Aramaic translations of the Bible, where a future event is so sure to happen, that it is referred to in the past tense, as though it has already occurred.  

    This reassurance of God is a gift, an unmerited expression of God’s mercy and love. However, in order to receive this gift, the Israelites need to obey God’s commands to the letter.  

    2. God renews His covenant with the Israelites and prepares them for victory

    God likes to plan – we just don’t always see it.  Sometimes, when it appears that God has instantaneously answered our prayers, He has actually been preparing us for His provision and grace.   

    Since arriving in Canaan, God is preparing the Israelites spiritually for their onslaught on Jericho and consequently the rest of the land. Not only does He want the Israelites to commit to a covenant relationship with Him, He wants to train them to put their faith and obedience in Him. This is how God achieves this:

    God instructs the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones in Gilgal 

    The Canaanites regarded the River Jordan as a natural defense. However, not only did the Israelites chose this route to enter into Canaan, they wanted to cross it during the harvest time, when the banks of the river were flooded over.  

    When God separated the waters and dried up the river bed in order for His people to cross over (Joshua 3:16-17), He instructed the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones where they first set foot in Canaan, which was Gilgal. The stones were to serve as a reminder for future generations of the miracle of the River Jordan crossing and to let all the people of the earth know how mighty and fearful God was (Joshua 4:20-24) 

    God requests that all males born in the wilderness be circumcised.

    The rite of circumcision was first performed by Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), establishing the covenant relationship between God and Israel. However, the Israelites who had left Egypt had not continued with this covenant tradition in the wilderness.  

    Therefore, it was necessary for the Israelites to undergo circumcision in their camp at Gilgal, in order to seal a covenant with God and distinguish themselves as His chosen people. God also wanted to remove any taint of their former lives as slaves (Joshua 5:9). For this reason, Gilgal means “rolling”, as it was here that God rolled away the Israelite’s past.  

    Though undergoing circumcision meant that the Israelites needed a time-out in order to heal from their wounds, God was more concerned with establishing a spiritual bond between Himself and His people, rather than having the Israelites go to battle without His presence.   

    The Israelites were to observe the Passover

    The Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelite’s from Egyptian slavery, as well as their new-found liberation as a nation. It comes from the Hebrew word Pesach, which means to pass over.  

    It was first observed while the Israelites were in Egypt, where God passed over the blood-smeared doorposts of the Israelites to kill every firstborn – human and animal alike (Exodus 12:1-28). It was God’s tenth and final plague against Pharaoh, a judgement issued to Egypt because Pharaoh refused to release God’s people from the bonds of slavery (Exodus 11:4-8). With the demise of his firstborn son, Pharaoh conceded defeat and released the Israelites from their bondage (Exodus 12:31-32).  

    39 years had passed since the Israelites had last observed the Passover, which had taken place in their second year in the wilderness. However, before the Israelites could face their enemies at Jericho, God required them to take up the Passover tradition once again (Joshua 5:10). 

    Not only did God want the Israelites to obey His laws as He had decreed them when the Israelites were on the brink of freedom, He wanted His people to remember how He had delivered them from their enemies in Egypt, before doing the same at Jericho. 

    God stopped providing manna and quail

    As part of the keeping of Passover, the Israelites were required to have a feast. While they were in the wilderness, God had provided them with manna, which was similar to bread, as well as quail from heaven (Exodus 16:12). However, for Passover, they ate the rich produce of the land. From then on, God ceased providing them with manna and quail. 

    Why did He do this? For 40 years, God had generously provided the Israelites with a constant, albeit limited food source. Now, God was teaching them that there was abundance to be had in Canaan, but instead of it being presented to them every morning and twilight, God was training them to be self-sufficient (Philippians 4:11-12). 

    Joshua receives a Heavenly visit

    This point is an important one. In Joshua 5:13-15, a Man with a drawn sword appeared near Joshua, as he was by Jericho. This was no ordinary man, but an angel of God’s army. Theologians call this kind of encounter a theophany, which is a heavenly visit from God in the Old Testament, where He takes the form of, but is not limited to, a human. Similar theophanies are to be found in Judges 6:12-22 and 2 Kings 6:17

    Joshua needed to take his shoes off, because he was standing on holy ground. Moses experienced the same in Exodus 3:5 when he was on Mount Horeb. Being on holy ground meant you were in the presence of God in the Old Testament, which was a rare and privileged experience.  

    Not only did the angel appear to reassure Joshua in his role of leader, but He wanted to make it clear to Joshua, that He was not there to be on the Israelite’s side; rather, the Israelites needed to side with God if they wanted victory.  

    The angel also wanted to make it clear that this was God’s battle and consequent victory and would therefore be won on His terms, for His glory (Joshua 6:16-17).  

    Photo credit: Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash 

    God has already planted a weakness behind the enemy lines

    If Jericho had been nigh impossible to penetrate in the past, it was even more so now. On seeing the Israelites, the inhabitants of the fortress city have gone into lockdown mode.  

    Word of the Red Sea parting and the miracle of the Jordan River crossing have reached the ears of the citizens of Jericho (Joshua 2:10). Though the Israelites may not be seasoned warriors such as themselves, the Canaanites acknowledge that the Israelite attack is not to be taken lightly.  

    The people of Jericho don’t want to follow God, and yet they know of the promise He has made to the Israelites to take their land away from them, which has them shivering in their leather sandals (Joshua 2:9).  The entire city of Jericho is determined to shut the presence of God out – literally and spiritually and is thereby on full alert.

    However, what the Canaanites don’t know, is that God has already compromised the impregnable defences of the city in a manner that no one could have reckoned with – through a prostitute named Rahab.  

    After Moses’ failed attempt at a reconnaissance trip (Numbers 13:25-29), Joshua sent two men on a second scouting expedition – but this time in secret (Joshua 2:1)).  The presence of the two spies was quickly found out and the king of Jericho issued orders for the men to be found. 

    At the risk of her own life, Rahab offered the two Israelites refuge by hiding them on the roof of her house under stalks of flax. When the king of Jericho sent his men to Rahab with the request to hand over the men, she told the king’s officials that the Israelite’s had already left. 

    God literally placed a weakness in the wall, as Rahab’s house was built into the defensive stone exterior (Joshua 2:15). After the city’s gate had been shut for the night, Rahab let a rope out of her window, which the two Israelite’s used to flee the city.

    Why did Rahab decide to help the spies?  

    • She was the only one in Jericho that understood that God reigns supreme above all powers in heaven and on earth (Joshua 2:11
    • She knew that with God on the Israelite’s side, the fall of Jericho was inevitable
    • With that in mind, Rahab wanted to switch sides and declare her allegiance to God in faith (Joshua 2:11
    • Rahab was securing her family’s survival: In return for helping the spies escape the city, Rahab wanted the Israelite’s promise that they would spare her life and the lives of her family once Jericho was theirs (Joshua 2:13).  

    Due to Rahab’s assistance, the 2 spies were able to make it back safely to the Israelite camp and pass on the intel they had gathered, including Rahab’s allegiance. They now had a (wo)man on the inside! 

    Photo credit: Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

    We hope you enjoyed reading Part 1.1 of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible commentary on Joshua 6 “Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation”.

    If so, feel free to join us next week, where we will post Part 1.2 “Faith, obedience, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan”.

    Until, then may God’s blessings be upon you!






    Sources: 

    enduringword.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho”

    blueletterbible.org, “The fall of Jericho”

    bible.org, “Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)”

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

  • Articles

    3 ways that God is using a dry season to strengthen my faith

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Three years ago, l entered a dry season regarding my health. Until that time, l had been a private school teacher for 14 years. I had worked 75 hours a week, including on the weekends and during school holidays, until my body and my mind gave out and l had a breakdown. Consequently, l was diagnosed with burnout and depression and had to resign.


    During the first weeks of my convalescence, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest l would soon get back on my feet. However, as time has passed, it is evident that the damage to my health is greater than what l had initially realized.


    Completing everyday tasks overwhelm me. I get panic attacks in open spaces and have therefore been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Severe headaches leave me bedridden, and l experience stabbing pains in my left arm. I fall into deep pits of depression that last for weeks, and l have become a social recluse.


    Although l regularly seek the advice of a psychotherapist and other medical experts, l believe ultimately in the power of God to heal. Thus, through prayer and thanksgiving, l lay out my petition of a full recovery to God (Philipians 4:6) every day. However, it’s like the sky over my head is made out of bronze (Deuteronomy 28:23), because l can see only a little improvement in my health.


    Jesus says in John 10:10 that He has come in order that we may enjoy life until it overflows, so l just don’t understand why God isn’t healing me. In my darkest moments, l even despair whether l will ever experience what it feels to enjoy a healthy, joy-filled life.


    However, after much struggling and griping, I have come to realize that God is using this journey in the wilderness to teach me to completely trust and rely on Him, because l can’t recover unless l put my absolute faith in Him.

    Here are three ways that God is using my current dry season to strengthen my faith:

    Praise God before you see a breakthrough

    When l feel afraid or fall into a miry pit of depression, l raise my hands and thank God for healing that l haven’t seen manifest yet. The effects are instantaneous: My spirits lift, and l feel a sense of peace wash over me. I remember that God is in control, as l keep my eyes on Him and not on my circumstances.


    To emphasize the importance of praising Him before a breakthrough, I believe that God has been showing me the spiritual foundations behind the Israelite’s victory over the fortress city of Jericho in Joshua 6.


    I find it amazing how the Israelites, commanded by Joshua, shouted before the walls of Jericho fell down: This took more faith than shouting in jubilation after they had seen God give them the city (Joshua 6:16). I admire how the Israelite’s believed that God had given them victory over their enemies before they actually saw it.


    This season has taught me that words have power. If l voice my praise to God preceding a victorious recovery, l know that my words shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish the purpose of reviving my health (Isaiah 55:11).

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Get to know God by studying the Word


    During this dry season, there have been times when l have wandered around aimlessly as the Israelites did in the desert. I was confused and doubtful as to whether my circumstances would ever change. Like Job, l felt that God had left me alone to fend for myself (Job 23:8-9).


    However, God has been with me the entire time in this arid wilderness: My mind and heart just weren’t attuned to hear His voice. Thus, instead of hoping for rain, l had to dig deep inside myself and ask Jesus to stir up His living waters in me (John 4:14).


    Studying the Bible has been a revelation for me: It’s been like discovering a Get-to-know-God manual (2 Tim 3:16). Through His Word, God gives me courage when l am afraid (Isaiah 41:10), strength when l am weak (Isaiah 40:29), and corrects me when l mess up (Hebrews 4:12). On days when l feel disheartened, God meets me where l am (Matthew 11:28).


    Knowing the Word helps me realize that l am fearfully and wonderfully made in Christ and that l shouldn’t believe the lies of the enemy that say otherwise (John 8:44).

    Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    A dry season is an opportunity to grow spiritually

    Last summer, l started working out at the gym. At first, l found it strenuous, and my body felt stiff and sore after every workout. Nowadays, my body is accustomed to the physical exertion, and l can see muscle definition forming.


    Similarly, l feel like God is using this dry season to grow my spiritual muscles. When l get a panic attack or become depressed, l am learning to hand the situation over to God, instead of allowing it to overwhelm me.
    Though it’s hard, l appreciate that God is using affliction to purify me of emotions that aren’t serving me, such as fear (Isaiah 48:10). I believe that God wants me to start a writing ministry, and is using this time to build up my resilience to tackle future trials and teach me obedience as preparation for His promotion.


    When l first became sick, l was convinced that this trial was designed to fail me. However, the further l push through this season, the more l see God cheering me on, as l learn to seek His face. Through this process, He has renewed my fallen spirit, given me a heart that is hungry for Him, and changed my mindset from that of a victim to that of a victor.

    If you are experiencing a dry season right now, let me encourage you that your time in the wilderness is a temporary layover, it is not your final destination. Stay the course, keep your eyes on God and ask Him to show you what you need to learn from Him to move on through. On the other side of your trials lies the Promised Land, with all the blessings for your life that God has planned for you.

    You’re going to make it!

    Photo credit:  Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash

    Blog banner:  Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

    This article was first published on YMI Magazine on the 11th February 2019.

  • Devotionals

    My soul will be still, for the Lord is in control

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day:

    When faced with adversity, l will be still and rest in God’s presence, knowing that He is in control. 

    “Be still, and know that I am God! 
        I am exalted among the nations, 
        I am exalted in the earth.” 

    Psalm 46:10  (NRSV)

    One of my favorite experiences in church is Praise and Worship at the beginning of each service. Our church worship team plays contemporary songs with concert flair, complete with visual effects and loud beats, which enhances my worship experience. I love it!  

    Last week, the worship team played Be still by Hillsong Worship.  In the past, l found the song encouraging and the lyrics poignant, but l didn’t ruminate past these initial impressions. However, on this day, something shifted inside of me as soon as the first words of the song reached my ears: 

    “Be still and know
    That the Lord is in control
    Be still my soul
    Stand and watch as giants fall”

    These past few months have been extremely difficult for me healthwise. I have experienced a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and depression that has left me feeling emotionally drained, physically weak, and spiritually vulnerable to lies and accusations from the enemy about who l am in Christ.

    When l am feeling particularly morose, l question whether l will ever travel again to distant countries, take part in social interactions, or even be able to laugh out loud again – activities which require the physical and mental vitality that l haven’t possessed in years. Sometimes, l get really frightened that l will always be watching others enjoy their lives, while l waste away behind an invisible mental barrier of depression, fatigue, and loneliness.

    And yet, when l heard the words of this beautiful song, l felt like God was telling me to stop what l was doing – to stop feeling melancholy and afraid – and just be still in His presence.  

    “I won’t be afraid
    If You are here
    You silence all my fear”

    God assured me that He sees my situation, and He is working in it.  He reminded me that when l had faced adversity in the past, He had been there to support and guide me. Every time, He had brought me out of the valley.

    God had been in control then, and He was in control now. He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow:  I did not need to be afraid. 

    Hearing this message in the heightened atmosphere of corporate worship instantly comforted me.  I felt like the doubts and fears that had slithered into my head were silenced by God’s reassurance of His love. Out of nowhere, I had a sudden surge of hope that everything would work out for the best. It was an unfamiliar sensation to experience – and yet, it felt comforting.

    Later that day, l spent some quiet time with God and played “Be Still” again.  For the first time in a long while, l actually felt the stillness of being in His presence. Finally, I could rest.   

    “Surely love and mercy
    Your peace and kindness
    Will follow me
    Will follow me”

    I learned an important lesson last Sunday: I need not search for God’s love, mercy, and kindness, for it is always within my reach – in fact, it follows me. It is a gift that God gives me, together with His peace, which transcends all understanding.

    All l need to do is stop, be still, and rest in the Lord.

    He will take care of the rest.  

    Prayer: 

    Loving Father, thank you that we can find true rest in the stillness of Your presence. When troubles overwhelm us or we feel doubtful and afraid, help us to remember that You are in control. You will not fail us, nor forsake us. Amen.  

    Delve deeper: 

    If you need to rest in the stillness of God’s presence today, spend time with Him in prayer.  Ask God to show you how you can lay all your problems and your busy schedule aside and just rest in the love, mercy, and kindness of His presence, where you will find peace.

    Blog banner:  Adam Zvanovec on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    Solid as a Rock – When Life Crumbles

    Written by Sarah Keith

    “Oh Lord, preserve my faith. Preserve my faith, O Lord!”

    I found myself praying that prayer – again. You see my husband Bob, of 32 years, fainted and fell October of 2013; he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Twelve days later my mother died.

    My world crumbled. The grief was unbearable.

    I thought l would die of a broken heart. During those dark days it was almost impossible to think, let alone pray. Most days, l could only utter a one-word prayer, “Jesus.” I pleaded with God to heal Bob, but l also found myself praying, “Oh God, preserve my faith.”

    I wrestled and struggled with doubts about what l believed. Did l really believe all that l had taught or had written to encourage others in their faith?

    But where could l go? To whom could l turn?

    Who else is there besides the Lord?

    And who else has opened the gates of heaven to sinful mortal souls and holds the words of eternal life?

    Then God in His providence preserved my husband’s life, and over the course of seven months brought him back from death’s door.

    Bob still has many physical and mental deficits. He can’t be alone. Even so, he has made much progress, and this gives me hope!

    But it is not clear whether he will be completely restored on this side of heaven. I question, “Are you there Lord? Do you care?”

    My daughter has been urging me to do something for myself. So, l took her up on it. She would “watch” dad, while l went for a bike ride – something normal!

    I took my familiar route to the ocean inlet. It was a beautiful morning with bright, clear blue skies, puffy white clouds, and an easy breeze for biking. As l peddled, l prayed, “Lord, preserve my faith. I need you to help me. I can’t do this!”

    When l reached the inlet pathway, l noticed it had been re-landscaped. It was beautiful but now unfamiliar. At the mouth of the inlet, just before it spills into the ocean, sits my prayer rock. When l stepped onto it, a thought came to me, “Everything else might look different, but my rock hasn’t changed. It’s fim and secure. And is this not what the Scripture says about God?”

    My soul groaned deep within, and l cried out, “Lord, l need to hear from You; I need to know that You are there, and that You care. Please let me hear from You today. Don’t remain silent! Please Lord, speak to me!” Then, as is my custom, l turned to the passage in Psalms that matched the date – Psalm 31.

    I read:

    In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
        let me never be put to shame;
        deliver me in your righteousness.
     Turn your ear to me,
        come quickly to my rescue;
    be my rock of refuge,
        a strong fortress to save me.
    Since you are my rock and my fortress,
        for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
    Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
        for you are my refuge.
    Into your hands I commit my spirit;
        deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

    I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
        as for me, I trust in the Lord.
     I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
        for you saw my affliction
        and knew the anguish of my soul.
     You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
        but have set my feet in a spacious place.

    Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
        my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
        my soul and body with grief.
    My life is consumed by anguish
        and my years by groaning;
    my strength fails because of my affliction,
        and my bones grow weak.
    Because of all my enemies,
        I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
    and an object of dread to my closest friends—
        those who see me on the street flee from me.
    I am forgotten as though I were dead;
        I have become like broken pottery.
     For I hear many whispering,
        “Terror on every side!”
    They conspire against me
        and plot to take my life.

     But I trust in you, Lord;
        I say, “You are my God.”
     My times are in your hands;
        deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
        from those who pursue me.
     Let your face shine on your servant;
        save me in your unfailing love.
     Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
        for I have cried out to you;
    but let the wicked be put to shame
        and be silent in the realm of the dead.
     Let their lying lips be silenced,
        for with pride and contempt
        they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

     How abundant are the good things
        that you have stored up for those who fear you,
    that you bestow in the sight of all,
        on those who take refuge in you.
     In the shelter of your presence you hide them
        from all human intrigues;
    you keep them safe in your dwelling
        from accusing tongues.

     Praise be to the Lord,
        for he showed me the wonders of his love
        when I was in a city under siege.
     In my alarm I said,
        “I am cut off from your sight!”
    Yet you heard my cry for mercy
        when I called to you for help.

     Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
        The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
        but the proud he pays back in full.
     Be strong and take heart,
        all you who hope in the Lord.

    Psalm 31:1-24 (NIV)


    Had l ridden my bike the day before or after the 31st of the month, the passages in Psalm 30 and Psalm 1 say nothing about a rock.


    But God in His mercy reminded me that He knows what is happening – and cares!

    He is teaching me to trust that He is the One in whom l can rest and depend! He is working out His plan – in His time.


    Dear friends, if you too are walking an unfamiliar path in life. I urge you to step onto the Solid Rock. Call on the Lord Jesus, take refuge in him; He is our Sure Foundation!


    Update:

    It is now the summer of 2019. Bob has come a long way in speech, understanding, and the ability to walk. Yet, he still cannot be left alone. These past five years have continued challenging my faith.

    I struggle with doubts, insecurities, fear, and burnout from care-giving. My health has been adversely affected too. Even so, God continues to show up in unique and undeniable ways. He continues preserving my faith when l think l can’t take one more step.

    The Lord continues to prove His faithfulness, even when l am faithless – because as the Scriptures promise, “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

    That’s God’s promise to His children when we are weak in our faith!

    This article was first published by Sarah Keith on her website The Sunday School Network.com. Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Blog banner:  Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981, she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.

    Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years

  • Articles

    9 Hopeful Truths for When God Seems Distant

    Written by Madeline Twooney 

    Two months ago, l felt like l experienced a breakthrough in my 3-year convalescence from burnout and depression.

    I was trying to fall asleep when l felt like my head opened up, and all the heavy, dark thoughts and anxiety came out and drifted upwards. It was like l was handing all of them over to God. I remember thinking, “Papa, l think you’ve healed me!” Shortly afterwards, l fell into a deep, restorative sleep. 

    Unfortunately, my recovery only lasted for about two days. The depression and anxiety returned, and God’s presence, which l had felt so intensely that night, remains but a beautiful memory for me now.  

    “Where is God?” l have been asking myself since my heavenly encounter. “Why does He feel so far away?” 

    If you’re like me, and you’re feeling like God is maintaining radio silence, l hope that these 9 tips will give you encouragement that God is very near – in fact, He’s closer to you than you think.  

    God is close to the broken-hearted 

    “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
        and saves the crushed in spirit. ” 

    Psalm 34:18 

    We have all encountered sorrow and loss at some point in our lives, may it be a family estrangement, receiving a negative doctor’s report, or the passing away of a loved one. It’s a heartbreaking process to go through. 

    God’s empathy for our heartache is demonstrated through His Son. When Jesus first began His ministry, He stated that the Lord had sent Him “to bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 61:1). 

    Jesus Himself experienced great sorrow on earth. His feelings upon hearing of the death of His friend Lazarus are demonstrated with two words – “Jesus wept” (John 11.35 NIV).  

    Furthermore, knowing that His moment of sacrifice was nigh, Jesus said to three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34 NIV). 

    In addition to His own personal experiences, Jesus showed compassion for those who suffered, through His many acts of healing.  

    Photo credit;   Alex Boyd on Unsplash

    God promises to never fail us, nor forsake us

    ‘ “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” ‘

    Deuteronomy 31:6

    It is repeated throughout the Bible that God will never leave us to fend for ourselves. 

    Therefore, when it feels like God is far away and we’re feeling vulnerable and alone, God is actually right there with us, protecting us and keeping us safe in the midst of what we are going through.  

    God will not let anyone or anything harm us, and He will not leave us to face difficult times on our own – that is His promise to us.  

    Photo credit:  Dan Meyers on Unsplash

    God’s assurances that He is with us are reflected in His names

    ‘ “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” ‘

    Jeremiah 16:21

    God is known by many names in the Bible. Here are a few that apply directly to His character: 

    • Yahweh, meaning “The Lord” (Genesis 2:4
    • Abba, meaning “Father” (Mark 14:36
    • Jehovah Rapha, meaning “The God who heals” (Psalm 147: 3
    • Jehovah Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14
    • Jehovah Nissi, meaning “The Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15
    • Jehovah Shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24

    If you would like to learn more about the names of God and the relevance of their meanings for us today, then click here to read our article on this topic.

    God’s many names reflect an assurance that He is always with us. They bear a promise that God will always protect us and provide for us.  He is not only the Lord God Almighty, He is our Father, who loves us and brings us peace.  

    Photo credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

    God is working behind the scenes

    ‘At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.”’

    1 Kings 18:44

    Sometimes, we feel like God is far away because we don’t see a change in our situation or an answer to our prayers. In such times, God is actually behind the scenes, working in our circumstances. 

    This was the case for Elijah in 1 Kings 18. After three years of famine in Samaria, the prophet told King Ahab to expect an abundance of rain. However, despite Elijah sending his servant six times to check for signs of precipitation on Mount Carmel, not one drop was to be seen.  

    Though it looked like nothing was happening, God was sending a cloud as small as a man’s hand out of the sea towards Samaria. Only after Elisha’s servant checked a seventh time, did he see a visible manifestation of God’s promise of rain. 

    Photo credit:  Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

    God wants to test your faith

    “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance;  and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

    James 1:3-4

    The Greek transliteration of the word “test” in the scriptures is peirasmóswhich means a trial or a proving. When we feel like God isn’t near, it is actually when He is closest to us; His apparent absence can be a test designed to strengthen our faith.  

    How can that be? 

    Testing is associated with purification – to cleanse out those things that aren’t serving us and produce perseverance by strengthening our belief that God is greater than any adversity we face (1 Peter 1:7).  

    Testing is designed to bear fruit by bringing us up to a mature level of faith. For that reason, James assures us that “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). 

    Photo credit:  Ronaldo de Oliveira on Unsplash

    God adheres to His own schedule, not ours

    ‘ “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” ‘

    Acts 1:7

    TV evangelist and author Joyce Meyers once quoted, “God is never late, but generally  He isn’t  early either.” 

    The omnipotent power of God transcends space and time. Whereas we have plans that we want to achieve during our short visit on this earth, God’s agenda spans all of eternity.  

    God’s schedule runs differently to ours, so when we wonder why He isn’t responding to our requests, prayers, and petitions, His assumed distance can only mean He is sorting things out in His own perfect timing.   

    In Acts 1:7 it states that it is not for us to know God’s timing. However, He does assure us that all things work out for good by Him because we love Him (Romans 8:28).  

    Photo credit:  JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

    God makes a clear declaration that He is with us

    ” Do not fear, for I am with you,
        do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

    Isaiah 41:10

    When thoughts and emotions start to rise to the surface that God is far away, His Word assures us with bold declarations that He is always with us and that we should not fear, neither should we be dismayed.  

    In Psalm 46:1, God even encourages us to seek refuge in His strength when we face troubles, for He is always with us.  

    What is so wonderful about God is that He not only offers us the comfort of His presence in our time of need, He always helps us over and above our expectations.  

    Photo credit:  Alexei Scutari on Unsplash

    Remember all the times that God was with you in the past

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    Hebrews 13:8 

    I keep a journal which l call my “Miracle Book”. In it, l record all the times God has touched my life with His supernatural favor, mercy, and kindness. 

    During times when l feel that God is far away from me, l get out my “Miracle Book” and l read my previous entries. Not only do they encourage me that God is indeed working in my life, they remind me that what He has done in the past He will do again, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  

    Photo credit:  Angelika Spanke on Unsplash

    Feeling distant from God has helped me connect with others in my situation 


    “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

    Galatians 6:2

    When l first got diagnosed with burnout and depression, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest and a change of lifestyle that the Great Healer would make me whole. However, as the months went by, it became obvious that my convalescence was going to take longer than l thought.  

    Three years later, I sit in church and hear regular praise reports of people who have been healed from depression, and l ask God sometimes, why l can’t be one of those people whom He miraculously heals. I start to criticize and question myself if my faith is strong enough to warrant a full divine-appointed recovery. 

    However, God works in mysterious ways. He has been using my infirmity to reach out and be a comfort to others, who are also waiting on God for their healing – either through my writing as a blogger and writer or in my daily interactions with people. In return, these wonderful people comfort and encourage me in my faith.  l feel truly blessed that they are in my life. 

    I’m not saying that if l had the chance at a do-over that l would choose to be sick again. Nor am l saying that l would voluntarily choose to go through those feelings of doubting God’s presence and enduring self-chastisement again. However, if l hadn’t gone through all of that, l wouldn’t have been able to connect with the people who have enriched my life and l theirs. 

    God does not only show us His presence during good moments, such as through a glorious sunset, the carefree chuckle of a child’s laughter or the blooming of a beautiful rose. God is always near – in the valley and on the mountain top.  

    However, when we start to doubt this, we need to hold onto God’s promises that He reveals to us in the Bible – that He loves us, He will never leave us, and that He will fulfil His purpose over our lives with His perfect timing for our good.  

    God never goes back on His Word.  

    This article was first published on Crosswalk.com on the 14th June 2019.

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Blog banner credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance SFX Makeup artist and dances to Sister sledge whilst cooking. She is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat.  

  • Devotionals

    The Trust Factor

    Written by Lynne Phipps

    Thought for the day: Trust in God is first and foremost a fact and not a feeling.   

    Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
        therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
        Blessed are all who wait for him!”

    Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

    Every day, my seven canines get a treat to help them maintain strong and healthy teeth. They never receive the treat at the same time on any given day. I hand them out when l fill up their food bowls for the evening meal. Sometimes, l do this early in the day, sometimes later.

    My seven canines used to be eight. And it was this eigth one that reinforced a valuable lessone for me, day in and day out, the older he got. By the time he was twelve, he was totally deaf. And by the time he was fifteen, his sight had greatly deteriorated. His cataracts were so thick, l doubt that he was able to see very much. He was such a happy little fellow though, always full of joy right from the first day he came to live with me and was still quite spry at the age of sixteen.

    And every day when it was treat time, even though he was deaf and basically blind, he always seemed to know. I would reach for the biscuits from the cupboard and turn around – and there would be seven dogs gathered around in expectation. I would dole out the goodies one by one until l had one left, which was Casey’s.

    And where would number eight be?

    Always sitting, waiting patiently in complete trust behind everyone else. He never barked or whined or tried to get his treat first, even though it would have been easy for him to walk under the bigger dog’s legs to get to the front of the line. Rather, he had learned over the years that he was never forgotten and he was never left out – he would receive that for which he hoped.

    Casey died just before Christmas, shortly after his sixteenth birthday. He suffered a stroke during his sleep and though it did not take him, the time had come to say goodbye.

    Now, every day when l turn around with the treats in my hand and see all of my friends gathered in anticipation, l remember the wonderful gift Casey left me: the trust factor.

    I also remember that the Lord longs to be gracious to me, for the Lord is a God of justice and blessed are all who wait for Him.

    Perhaps today, you may be feeling left out or forgotten. The Lord seems to be blessing everyone else but you. You feel that God has been silent and wonder will you ever hear His voice again. If so, fear not. Instead, embrace Casey’s gift: the trust factor. Trust in the promises and the goodness of God. Wait patiently for Him, and you will not be disappointed with the blessing He has in store just for you.

    Prayer: Father God, thank You so much that You long to be gracious to us, Your children. Thank You that You show compassion and are a God of justice. Thank You that we are blessed when we wait for You, for never will You leave us nor forget us. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

    Delve deeper: There is probably not a single Christian in all history, who has not struggled with trusting God when He seems to be silent, no matter how hard we try to reach Him. But trusting in God is not so much about our feelings but about standing upon the facts of Scripture.

     Consider these verses: 


        For I am with you, and I will take care of you.
        I, the Lord, have spoken!”

    Jeremiah 1:19 (NLT)

    Great is his faithfulness;
        his mercies begin afresh each morning.

    Lamentations 3:23 (NLT) 

    I will never leave you nor forsake you.

    Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) 

    So today, if you are struggling because God seems to be silent in your life, remember Casey and the trust factor. Then, begin to dwell upon those Scriptures that promise God is faithful. He is with you and will never forsake you!

    Additionally, think upon all His faithfulness to you in the past, and begin to praise God for His continued faithfulness, not only for today, but also for all the days which lie ahead for you throughout eternity.

    This devotional was originally published at PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 11th March 2019.

    Blog banner credit:  Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

  • Personal testimonies

    Be still

    Written by JJ Ollerenshaw

    ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.’

    Genesis 1:3-5 (NIV) 

    Isn’t it interesting that God created light before he created the sun and the moon? Nothing can live without light. Plants need light to turn green, and they produce the oxygen that we need to breathe. We can’t grow without light. Have you noticed how fast children grow in the summer months? Physical life needs physical light. We also need emotional and spiritual light.   

    When I was a fairly new Christian, I attended a women`s prayer meeting in hopes of shedding some light on my inner turmoil. My two children were in school all day and it was time for me to return to work. I had been a legal secretary, but times had changed. Computers were now in use, but I didn’t know how to use one. As well, I doubted that I could sit still all day when I had been so active for the past several years. I did not want to go back to school, but neither did I know what else to do. 

    As I fretted about this, and prayed, my mind going around in circles, it seemed to me that the room was filled with wind. Did someone open a window? I opened my eyes, expecting to see the curtains blowing about. But nothing moved – and no one else seemed to have noticed. All heads were bowed, all eyes were closed. There was a quiet female murmuring beneath the whoosh of the wind.  

    Then I heard the Voice. Gentle, loving, but nonetheless the Voice of authority: “Be still ….”  Years later, I learned that the proper translation of these words (Psalm 46:10) is a reprimand, not an invitation or suggestion. That was exactly how I heard it – a command. 

    I obeyed. The Voice stopped me in my tracks. I have never forgotten it. Awed, I had a new respect for God. He spoke to me! I began to ask, what did God want me to do?  

    Shortly after this, I began a completely new career in home nursing, something I had never before considered. It suited me completely. Ten years later, however, I was burned out from trying to be Superwoman. We had moved and taken up farming while I did shift work in a nursing home. My job was physically tiring and stressful. At home, the livestock needed tending and the house needed renovations. The farm was isolated. Our teenagers vied for my car. And I was so angry with God.  

    I felt that I had done everything “right”, the way I was supposed to. We were active in church and raised our kids in Sunday school. This was not what I expected in return. I was tired, unhappy, and literally had no hope for the future. As I blamed God and did a freefall into severe clinical depression, other voices filled my head. I wanted nothing more than to be in the dark – quiet and alone.  

    Depression is not just a human illness. We had two beautiful German Shepherd dogs, not from the same litter, but born two months apart they thought they were brothers. They roamed our farm at will and delighted in chasing the occasional car. As they grew, one dog became bolder and took to chasing chickens as well. When his nose was on a level with our table, he stole food off our plates. Eventually he got himself into big trouble and had to be put down.  

    His brother moped. Obviously in a dark place, he lay on the step and refused to eat. So, I spent time with him, teaching him to catch a ball and walk on a leash. He became my shadow. I saved his life. And when I fell into the depths of despair, he saved mine.  

    God was the mastermind. Anti-depressant drugs are wonderful but work slowly. Meantime, I had to rouse myself in order to let Jasper in and out of the house. How could I resist those soulful brown eyes and not walk with him and throw his precious tennis ball? He needed me and I needed him. As the saying goes: What goes around, comes around – we reap what we sow. He sighed and patiently rested his chin on my knee when I sobbed. 

    What do we do when morning comes but our life is in darkness?  How to rid the gloom of long grey winter days when so many suffer from SAD? We don’t want to talk. We tentatively part the curtains – and close them quickly. Exercise? We can’t force ourselves. We paint the walls green, blue, and yellow. We bring the outdoors in: flowers, bird houses, pictures of beach scenes and boats. We might head south. But there’s only one solution: turn on the light! 

     “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    John 8:12

    One day I was startled to suddenly see everything around me as if through rose-coloured glasses. I recognized that as the day I began to heal. Jesus is the light that banishes spiritual and emotional darkness. He calls himself the Light of the World, and actually gives us the same description, saying that we are the light of the world as well (Matthew 5:14). Our job is to let Jesus shine through us. We’re to go and find dark places, and start shining!

     

    Eventually, obeying that still, small Voice again, I headed back to school and another new career. My faithful canine friend departed this world at an old age, and I have long since retired from work. But whenever I start to fret and worry, God’s Spirit reminds me: Be still, and know that I am God. We can be assured that God is in control. He wants what is best for us, and has a plan. He will shine a light on it when we still our fretful minds and seek only His will for us. 

    ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

    Jeremiah 29:11

    Prayer: Jesus, shine Your light on our problems and show us the way. Help us to reflect Your light and move towards the people and places that need You. Amen. 

    Blog banner photo credit:  Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

    About the author:

    JJ Ollerenshaw is British but migrated to Canada at the age of 19. She enjoys the outdoors, but only in the summer months, hence her travel destinations have only been to warm countries. She enjoys reading, studying the Bible, and writing. She is an animal enthusiast. 

    JJ’s  writing career is diverse: She has written devotionals, short stories, as well as articles on travel and cattle (Yes, cattle!). Additionally, JJ has written a Sunday School curriculum, pioneered a political party newsletter, and has written an account of her and her husband’s genealogy, going back to the 1700’s.  

    JJ is a retired wine merchant, but still keeps active through renovating the family cabin and spending time in her garden. She has 8 beautiful grandchildren. 

  • Articles

    Lord, are you there?

    How God spoke to Elijah in the silence

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I’m sure like me, you are no stranger to hardship. For my part, I have gone through a fair share of adversity: death, illness, financial struggle, and my own family turning their back on me.

    Now, this is not a “pat on the back, admire me for what l have gone through” kind of article.

    Not at all.

    This is a shout-out to all of you who have gone through something or are going through something right now. In the midst of your strife, you’re seeking God, but you just can’t find Him.

    Know that you are not alone.

    Being in the valley is a lonely place, full of darkness and insecurity. You wonder why God allowed such things to happen to you. Moreover, when you call out to Him to help you out of your mess, your prayers and petitions are met with silence. God doesn’t seem to answer you back.

    Or does He?

    Being a Christian does not mean that our life turns into some kind of continuous happy-clappy revival, complete with outbursts of “Hallelujah!” and angel song in the background accompanying us all the livelong day. It certainly does not mean that as Born Again Christians  we are destined to walk around with goofy smiles plastered across our faces, as we react to prejudice, injustice, and racial slurs with glorified meekness.

    Being a Christian is hard. It means that life is still going to come at us with its arsenal of ill-intent; more so, because we are living ambassadors of the Most High God on earth.

    Jesus confirmed this when He addressed His disciples:

    ‘“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution.”’

    John 16:33 (NRSV)

    So, if Jesus warns us that we will experience trouble on this earth, why doesn’t God seem to answer us when we ask Him for help?

    Could it be that we just aren’t listening hard enough for His voice?

    The Bible contains numerous accounts of biblical heroes, who doubted God’s presence in the midst of adversity: Gideon asked God three times for divine confirmation of his calling to lead the Israelites against the Midianites (Judges 6). Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, doubted that Christ had been resurrected from the grave until he saw physical proof (John 20:24-29). After extensive torture and calamity at the hands of Satan, Job doubted God’s goodness (Job 7:20).

    However, in this article, l want to turn our focus onto Elijah the prophet, as his experience of Queen Jezebel of Samaria in 1 Kings 19 provides a beautiful example of how God reaches you in the (literal) silence .

    In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, Elijah had proclaimed God’s glory through a series of events:

    Firstly, Elijah had participated in a show-down in Samaria at Mt. Carmel against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Idol worship in Israel was rampant at that time, so Elijah was bold in his faith in making a stand against it. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Elijah was able to prepare an eye-popping sacrifice that declared God to be mightier than Baal or Asherah (1 Kings 18: 30-38) .

    Secondly, with divine authority (Deuteronomy 13:5), Elijah had slain the 850 priests. These were men carefully chosen by Jezebel, the resident evil queen of Samaria, to serve her and promote her desire of idol worship in the land (1 Kings 18:40). Therefore, it took a lot of guts cutting down the Queen’s prized lackeys.  

    Most impressively, where a severe famine had already raged a 3-year course across the country, Elijah had prayed for rain and God had heard his petitions (1 Kings 18:44-45).

    However, instead of celebrating God’s victories with a much-awaited dip in the now bursting banks of the River Jordan, Elijah freaked out after receiving an ominous message from Queen Jezebel. Apparently, she hadn’t taken too kindly to Elijah slaying her anti-God squad and she wanted Elijah dead. Full of fear, Elijah took flight.

    You’d think that after all the miracles that God had bestowed upon Elijah in 1 Kings 18, that one death threat from a human would be small fries in comparison. However, this message really unhinged Elijah. Granted, Jezebel was a truly evil woman and a formidable queen, who had her husband Ahab twisted around her little finger (I Kings 21:1-16). Mind you, Ahab wasn’t exactly a saint either. Still, who was Jezebel compared to the might and power of God, the almighty Yahweh of the Israelites (Exodus 3:14-15)?

    However, it is not uncommon to experience a crushing setback after a victory. It has happened to all of us, and Elijah was as human as any of us. So, Elijah hot-footed it towards Beersheba of Judah, which was over 80 miles out of Jezebel’s jurisdiction. That still wasn’t enough distance for Elijah, and he kept on moving.

    It states in the Bible that Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (I Kings 19:4). In the Bible, the wilderness symbolizes a dry season or a time of trial and testing. A good depiction of this is the Israelites sojourn in the wilderness for 40 years, which represented not only a physical dry season but a spiritual one – a result of their continuous doubt of God (Numbers 32:13).

    Elijah must have been exhausted after the previous chapter’s events and then he had the added stress of Jezebel to deal with. Hence, he took rest under a broom tree where angels ministered to him (I kings 19:5-8). Even while on the run, feeling lonely and afraid, God was with Elijah.

    However, it was when Elijah was in a cave that the Bible states that “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9). Away from the distractions of his current situation, Elijah was able to hear God speak.

    In your own experience, have you ever realized that you have more perspective over your situation, when you mentally step away from it?

    God further proves that He is with us in the silence. He went past Elijah as a great, strong wind that battered the mountains, as a trembling earthquake and a raging fire; and yet the Bible states that the Lord was not in any of these things (1 Kings 19:11-12).  

    Where was God then? He was in the still, small voice that came afterwards:

    “(A)nd after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”

    I Kings 19:12 (AMPC)

    Why did God choose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice? He could have spoken to him in conversational tones or boomed His message across the heavens, so that the mountains quaked and trembled at His very name.

    But no, God chose to whisper to Elijah, because He was close to him the entire time. The devil needs to scream and shout at us to scare us into keeping our focus on our problems. But God, in His permanent proximity to us, only needs to whisper in the silence to reassure us that He is God. He is always with us and will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

    At the reassurance of God’s voice, Elijah was able to receive comfort and further instructions for the next phase of his ministry, which included choosing Elisha as his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21).

    Though we may be subjected to adversity in our life, God never intends for us to fend for ourselves. He is with us when we pass through the waters, and ensures that when we walk through the fires we will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). If we doubt God’s presence during  trials, it could just be that we can’t hear Him through the confusion, pain, and tension of our current circumstances.

    Before l conclude, let’s go back briefly to that statement that Jesus made to His disciples in John 16:33 – however, this time, l am going to add the second part of the Bible verse.

    ‘”But take courage; I have conquered the world!”’

    John 16:33 (NRSV)

    Did you notice how Jesus stated that He has conquered the world? No matter what measure of ill launches an attack against us, it has to get through God first. So, even if something starts out as an attack against you, God will use it and turn it into a victory for you.

    So, next time you find yourself surrounded by silence, know that it is part of God’s greater plan for your life. Instead of running from Him, convinced that He has abandoned you, stand still and listen attentively for His still, small voice in the silence.

    Trust me, you will hear it.

    You can also read this article on  The Sunday School Network.com. Additionally, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Sources:

    gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to have a wilderness experience?”

    brockwaychurch.com, “Biblical characters who doubted God”

    www.learnreligions.com, “Elijah – boldest of prophets”

    YouTube video: “The power to choose” from Pastor Steven Furtick

    Blog banner photo credit:  Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    How to trust God when He is silent

    Written by Onome Ogbajibrede

    Thought of the day: Trusting in the living God is the living spring that opens the floodgate of divine help from above.

    ‘‘And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.’’    

    Psalm 9:10 (KJV)

    In one of the editions of our monthly crusade held in Abuja, Nigeria, which was organized by the Redeemed Christian Church of God Nigeria, a lady gave a testimony that boosted my faith again, and it is really a known fact that if we depend on God without looking elsewhere for help, He would come to our rescue.

    According to this lady, she said she delivered her baby inside the car, and the baby had catarrh in the nostril. At the hospital, it was diagnosed that the baby had a particular disease.

    It is only a mother that can explain the pains of motherhood in clean terms. Therefore, she took up this challenge upon herself. Every Sunday she was always giving a seed offering unto God concerning the baby’s health issue. This she did continuously, and God healed the baby: The disease was taken away by God Almighty who is our Balm in Gilead.

    Everyone who makes God a sure pillar of support and trust in Him will not be put to shame. God has never failed, and He has not forsaken His dearly beloved ones.

    Sometimes, in life, it may seem that God has abandoned us, and that He is silent concerning our case. This He does to see if we will give up on Him. But if we still hold on, it is then He appears from nowhere to calm our troubled storm.

    What a mighty God we serve! He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and when He comes, every other lion runs away.

    How can we trust God even when it appears He is silent concerning our case sometimes?

    Firstly, it is to be born again by accepting Jesus as the only true Saviour. Furthermore, by building confidence in God through studying His Word regularly, through constant prayers, by believing God for the impossible, and by listening to testimonies of how people trusted in God and God did not fail them.

    Prayer

    Dear Lord Jesus, Increase my faith in you, so that I can have absolute trust in you daily and rely on your help always. Amen.

    Delve Deeper: Recount the stories of people who have trusted in God – they were not disappointed. In our daily living, trusting in God will help us survive the storms of life.

    Photo credit:  Joshua Ness on Unsplash

    About the author:

    Onome OGBAJIBREDE is an Evangelist and a Christian Devotional Writer, who inspires and encourages people to come closer to God. He holds a Degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from Nigeria. Onome lives in Abuja, Nigeria, and can be contacted via devotionalembassy@gmail.com He loves researching into new ideas.

    Some of his devotionals can be accessed from the following links.

      Link 1  https://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=71709

      Link 2   https://christiandevotions.us/viewauthor/450

      Link 3   https://presbycan.ca/author/onome-ogbajibrede

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  

    In Part One, we studied Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus. We discovered that Paul was writing to the Ephesians to encourage them in their faith in Christ and to remind them that they are forgiven, loved, and chosen to be adopted by God into the Body of Christ. 

    God’s endgame to unite all nations under Jesus Christ through the church is also revealed. 

    Paul continues to tell the Ephesians that upon receiving salvation that they – and by extension, us – are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit, who comes to reside in us. The Holy Spirit provides us with a portion of the blessings, which is known as a pledge,  that we are to inherit as children of the Most High God.  

    Finally, Paul establishes Jesus as the Head of the Church, whose authority is greater than any entity or dominion and whose power is independent of space and time. If Jesus is the Head of the Church, then we as a community of Christians, are His body.  

    In Part Two, we explored the ways in which we can apply our understanding of God’s promise of love and blessings to our everyday lives. We also discussed how we can be ambassadors of Christ and spread the gospel as individuals and as churches to the nations.  

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you, who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Ephesians 1.  

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    Blog banner credit: ditya Saxena on Unsplash 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Ephesians 1.   

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Ephesians 1 that l have already posted, in order to fully appreciate the lessons portrayed in this epistle and to consider the chapter’s themes.   

    For whom is this study section intended? 

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group.  

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.   

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it!  

    What you will need: 

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries  
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen  
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similiar electronic device  

    This study section composes of five parts:  

    1. Discussion questions  

    2. Testimony  

    3. Suggested reading   

    4. Journal writing  

    5. Prayer  

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit! 

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier!  

    If you are studying on your own  

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Ephesians 1 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.   

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes:  

    1. Discussion questions:  

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.   

    2. Testimony  

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar.  

     3. Suggested reading   

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    4. Journal writing  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    5.Prayer  

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself:  

    “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  
        it shall not return to me empty,  
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

    Isaiah 55:11  

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    Photo credit:  Green Chameleon on Unsplash 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Ephesians 1. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have suggestions regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it!  

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking!  

    Possible discussion topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1.  God loves us unconditionally. How do you define this kind of love? What are some examples of how God has demonstrated His unconditional love for you? 
    2. Paul writes to the Ephesians that we have been foreordained, pre-chosen to be sons and daughters of God.  Does that mean that those who aren’t believers of Christ have not been pre-chosen to be in a relationship with God? What role does free will play in all of this? 
    3. God’s great plan is to unify all nations under Jesus Christ. That means having an end to all religious conflict in the world. Considering the extent of religious disunity, persecution, and acts of terror that occur in the name of religious conviction, do you see global unity under one God and one church as a possibility? 
    4. God considers us holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4). Considering that we are all sinners and are constantly trying to find our way, what does this mean to you? 

    Note: These topics might be a bit sensitive for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit:  Christin Hume on Unsplash 

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.   

     I will declare your name to my people;  
        in the assembly I will praise you.”  

    Psalm 22:22   

    Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us reason to be joyful, for God declares that not only are we loved and forgiven for our sins, He lavishes us with His grace, blessings, and invites us into His family as His adopted children.  

    Possible testimony topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1. How did you come into a relationship with Christ? Share your story of salvation with the rest of the group. Give a testimony of a time when God blessed you abundantly – over and above your expectations. 
    2. It is stated often in the Bible that we should seek God, for example, in Matthew 7:7. However, in this epistle, Paul makes it very clear that God seeks us out.  Share with the group of an encounter you had with God when He sought you out at a time when you needed Him the most.
    3. When we give our lives to Christ we are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit and He comes to reside in us. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in you since you have entered into a relationship with Jesus?  

    To help you with your answer, refer back to Part One of our Bible Study under the section “Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)”. 

    Photo credit:  Wesley Eland on Unsplash 

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy. 

    The following are some scriptures you may enjoy reading about how much God loves you and that He always has your back. 

    Scriptures:  

    Reading the remaining 5 chapters of  the Book of Ephesians will give you more depth and insight into God’s unconditional love for you and the plans He has for you as an individual, as well as for the church.

    • Ephesians 2 – God raised us from the death of a life of sin and has sat us in High Places with Him. It is by faith that we have been saved, not by works. Paul discusses the foundation of the Church, which are the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as her cornerstone.
    • Ephesians 3 – Paul declares from his confinement in Rome of his role in revealing God’s eternal plan for His children.   The power of God is greater than any other authority, and the Church under Christ should reflect His glory. Paul prays that the Ephesians have an encounter with Christ that embeds itself in their hearts. 
    • Ephesians 4 – In this chapter, Paul lists the spiritual gifts that God has given us to fulfill His vision of a functioning Church. Additionally, Paul reminds us to live in humility and morality that honors the Holy Spirit, such as to not steal, be obscene, or allow the sun to go down on your anger. 
    • Ephesians 5– God is love so we should also walk in love. Again, Paul gives us instructions on living a Christian life that reflects God’s will for us. He also talks about the role of men and women in a marriage. 
    • Ephesians 6– Paul gives instructions about family life, specifically the role of both parent and child in the home. Lastly, Paul teaches us that we have a spiritual enemy, Satan, and that we must put on spiritual armour daily to fend off the enemy’s attacks.  

    Interesting online articles relating to Ephesians 1:  

    theprayingwoman.com, “God has your back” Sophia Vilceus 

    www.joelosteen.com, “Claim Your Inheritance” Lisa Comes 

    www.crosswalk.com, “Teaching Life Skills: Practical Outreach for Any Church” Chris Bolinger 

    https://ymi.today,  “5 lies to stop believing about yourself” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com,  “Are There Some People God Will Not Save?” 
     

    Inspirational quotes relating to Ephesians 1:  

    ‘God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ‘- Billy Graham 

    “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” C.S. Lewis 

    “The life of success is one of going forward to posses our possessions. It has been said that God’s will does not send a man to where His grace cannot sustain him. God’s will and His grace go hand in hand.” – Benson Andrew Isahosa 

    Photo credit:  Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal.  

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God:  

    •  A testimony journal  
    •  A dreams and visions journal  
    •  A blessings journal  
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal  

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.   

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.   

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’  

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)  

    Journaling in your group:  

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other.  

    An alternate suggestion, is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group.  

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Ephesians 1 

    1. In your journal, divide your page in half to form two columns. In the left column, write the title “How the world sees me”. In the right column, write the title “How God sees me”.  

    Fill out in the left column how your family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors sees you. Include not only roles and job descriptions but also personality and behavioral traits. 

    Example: “mother”, “husband”,  “reliable”, “shy” 

    In the right column, write a list of everything that God says about YOU

    Example:  “beloved Child”, “forgiven”, “redeemed” 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.   

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    5.Prayer

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.   

    Prayer:  

    Oh, Great and Almighty God, 

    You are the Alpha and the Omega, the God who is, who was, and who is to come – You are the Almighty and the Ruler of All. 

    I come to You today full of awe and humility. I lay myself at Your feet, overcome by the love, grace, and mercy that You lavish upon me. Your acts of kindness towards me are countless, as are Your blessings which are as numerous as the stars in the night sky.  

    Precious Lord, l thank you that You chose me to be your child, before l was even in my mother’s womb. Thank you, that when l was swayed by the temptations of this world and dwelled in the darkness of spiritual death, Your love was a light that shone out and brought me back to life through the redeeming blood of Your son Jesus Christ. 

    Now, l am seated in heavenly places with You, adopted into the Body of Christ as Your child. I am Yours, marked with the stamp of the seal of the Holy Spirit that denotes me as belonging to You and You alone. Your grace and love fill me with wonder that You would have chosen me into Your heavenly family.  

    Father, teach me Your ways, in order that l may live the life You have planned for me. Instruct me in the ways of Your love and grace and imprint it on my heart, in order that l do not sin against You. For without You, where l would l be? 

    Mature me in my gifts through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, in order that l may serve You well in my church and help further Your great plan to unify all mankind under the leadership of Jesus Christ, Your son.  
     

    To You be given all the honor and the glory, for You are worthy to be praised. 

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen.  

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    We hope that you enjoyed our Bible study on Ephesians 1 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies.  

    In August, we will be studying  Joshua 6, which describes the fall of Jericho, a fortress city in the land of Canaan. We would love for you to join us!  

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

    http://www.crosswindschurch.com, “Bible Study Basics – Ephesians 1” 

    http://dsntl8idqsx2o.cloudfront.net, “Ephesians Small Group Series Lesson 1 – Introduction to Ephesians & Chapter 1 The Extent of God’s Love and Power” 

    biblesummarybychapter.blogspot.com, “Ephesians Bible summary by chapter”